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Astronomers around the world bid farewell Friday to NASA's famed Cassini spacecraft, which launched 20 years ago to circle Saturn and transformed the way we think about life elsewhere in the solar system.Three other spacecraft have flown by Saturn -- Pioneer 11 in 1979, followed by Voyager 1 and 2 in the 1980s.But none have studied Saturn in such detail as Cassini, named after the French-Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered in the 17th century that Saturn had several moons and a gap in between its rings. Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1997, then spent seven years in transit followed by 13 years orbiting Saturn. Its final plunge will reveal even more about the make-up of Saturn's atmosphere before Cassini disintegrates like a meteor.
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